Distinguished Laguna women honored

Leadership was defined Monday night at a dinner honoring four outstanding Laguna Beach women.

The Laguna Beach Foundation of the American Association of University Women added Sea Captain Susie Campbell, Realtor Bobbi Cox, educator Joannne Culverhouse and former Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Kim Maxwell to the list of 54 women recognized as community leaders by the group.

“Some say that the most endangered species in this world are leaders, so finding four local outstanding women leaders in our community is a call for celebration, and that is what we are doing tonight," said Bama Hilal, co-chair of the dinner. “Women in Leadership are what AAUW/Laguna Beach is all about."

The annual Leadership Dinner was founded in 1999 by Carol Reynolds, a past president of the local AAUW chapter and an honoree in 2003 for community leadership. She cozies up the dinners with her own inimitable style as mistress of ceremonies.


“I don’t think we have ever honored someone for their money, but it’s about time," Reynolds said in praise of honoree Cox’s $50,000 donation to the Senior Center.

But Cox’s other contributions are worthy of recognition, Reynolds added.

She cited the annual Commerce Leadership Luncheon founded by Cox, at which community and business leaders are given two minutes to tell about their accomplishments and goals.

The arts, however, have first claim on Cox’s time and wallet. A lover of dance, she supports the St. Joseph’s Ballet and specified that her donation to the senior center would be used to build a dance studio.


She also donates to the Laguna College of Art & Design, served on the Arts Commission and helped organize the Community Art Project.

She also supports the county Probation Department’s Youth Guidance Center and other programs for children.

“You give where you can of time and money," Cox said. “There isn’t a person here that I know or know of that isn’t a leader."

She said leadership qualities include being a role model and sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement.

“It’s amazing how just a look or a thumbs up or a bravo can make a difference in someone’s life," Cox said.

Cindy Prewitt, who was honored at the 2004 dinner for founding Laguna Beach Live, served as a presenter Monday.

“I am pleased to introduce Kim Maxwell," Prewitt said. “As a past honoree and a recipient of funds through the dinner for Laguna Beach Live, it is fitting as it was through Laguna Beach Live that I met Kim."

Prewitt persuaded Maxwell to include an innovative musical program in the after-school activities provided at the Boys and Girls Club.


“Talk about new programs," Prewitt said. “When Pat Barry announced he was leaving the club in 1994, and we couldn’t imagine anyone stepping in, the club had a $263,000-plus budget, 20 employees and 650 members.

“Today, the budget is over $1.5 million. There are 35 employees at two locations and over 1,300 members."

The clubhouse on Laguna Canyon Road was virtually rebuilt under Maxwell’s leadership.

But she is no longer the executive director.

“I am proud of the legacy I left at the club," Maxwell said. “But from here on in, you will know me as ‘The Etiquette Lady.’"

Maxwell, who has been certified by the Protocol School of Washington, has begun a new career teaching professional etiquette and social skills to middle-management personnel and new executive levels in the corporate world.

Social skills, Maxwell said, strengthens the professional presence of today’s up-and-coming leaders.

Captain Campbell, who is certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, was honored for her dedication to the Laguna Beach Resource Center and Casa Hogar Orphanage in Mexico, as well as teaching local women and girls survival and life skills on her 34-foot sailboat.


“I want to tell you, I am not real comfortable speaking to a large group," Campbell said. “I spend my time on the open ocean with whales and dolphins."

Her discomfort was not apparent as she described her efforts on behalf of the poor, the homeless and the needy and the support she has received.

“I want to thank everyone here for me," Campbell said. “You are the threads in the tapestry of my life."

Thurston Middle School Principal Culverhouse’s leadership qualities were extolled by Reynolds.

“I have never met an educator I admire more than Dr. Joanne Culverhouse, and I have met hundreds, maybe thousands," said Reynolds, a retired teacher.

Peggie Thomas, a 2003 honoree for her contributions to education and volunteerism, introduced Culverhouse.

“‘Dr. C, as she is known, is a consummate leader of kids," Thomas said. “She attributes her leadership skills to athletics and her family."

Culverhouse said her father once told her and her sister: “I raised you two girls to be strong and independent. I think I may have gone overboard."

Culverhouse, who was an outstanding college athlete, began her career as a teacher, and was hired as the principal of El Moro Elementary School before moving to Thurston.

She still enjoys the classroom and joining students in after-school activities and sports.

“I got my doctorate to be a superintendent some day, but I am not done with the kids, yet," Culverhouse said.

Although her family could not be with her Monday, she had the solid support of Board of Education members and Laguna Beach Unified School District staff, whom she thanked with a favorite expression of the late school-board member K Turner.

“A great life is a series of small moments well lived," Culverhouse quoted. “This is my small moment in a great life."

Each of the honorees was presented with a star sculpture engraved with her names and the date.

Among the past honorees who attended the dinner: volunteer’s volunteer Sande St. John and this reporter (1999); Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda and Brandy’s Friends founder Cheryl Post (2000); former Arts Commissioner and Community Art Project founder Julita Jones (2001); Resource Center founder Marsha Bode (2002); College of Art & Design volunteer Nancy Lawrence (2003); League of Women Voters doyen Jean Raun (2004); Mayor Toni Iseman and Councilwoman Elizabeth Schneider (2005); and educator Barbara Hamkalo (2006).

Proceeds from the Leadership Dinner support the nonprofit foundation’s donations to organizations that comport with the AAUW’s mission to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research.

Beneficiaries have included La Playa Center, the Even Start preschool program at the Boys and Girls Club, the Community Clinic’s Women’s Program and Laguna Beach Live!

The group also funds programs for girls, by tutoring them, donating $750 per Thurston Middle School student to attend a weeklong science camp week or awarding a $1,000 scholarship to ease the burden of college tuition for a Laguna Beach High School graduate.

Scholarships also are available for women who want to go back to college to better their lives and break the cycle of poverty and be better role models for the children.

For information about membership visit or call (949) 376-5356.